Sunday, 22 December 2013

Principles and Peace: thoughts on the passing of Nelson Mandela By Douglas Aronin

«What makes Atticus Finch so extraordinary is his ability to stand up for principle despite the hostility of his friends and neighbors, while at the same time refusing to demonize those same friends and neighbors no matter how strongly they oppose him.  When his daughter Scout, the book's narrator, tells him that he must be wrong to defend the accused man because "most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong," his response sums up who he is: "They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions…but before I live with other folks, I've got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

The example of Atticus Finch came readily to mind these last few weeks as I followed the world-wide outpouring of admiration that followed the death at age 95 of Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa.  People who are able to take principled stands against determined opposition without losing  sight of the fundamental humanity of their opponents are not easy to find anywhere.  To find such a person at the highest levels of his country's politics is almost unheard of.  And Mandela did not merely become president of his country.  He became the first black president of a country that had long been divided by race and whose white minority regime had imprisoned him for twenty-seven years, yet he achieved what few if any other post-colonial leaders have managed to achieve – a peaceful transition to democratic governance without provoking a mass exodus of the white minority.»
Principles and Peace: thoughts on the passing of Nelson Mandela | Douglas Aronin | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

1 comment:

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

In discussing Nelson Mandela with many students, I recognize that there are many differing perspectives on this individual -- and I don't think that this post should be read as an absolute mandate regarding everything that Mandela did. Regardless of whatever else he did, this accomplishment in the transition must still be noted. We have many cases within Torah of still noting the accomplishments of one even as there is strong critique of this individual in regard to other matters.

Having said all this, though, I did raise what I felt was an interesting question regarding Mandela's accomplishment. While it worked, was it actually the proper, theoretical moral path? If Apartheid was evil, was it proper to achieve this peaceful transition at the cost of 'forgiving' the ones who practiced it?

Rabbi Ben Hecht